The news that Britain’s Conservative and Liberal Coalition Government has just passed an Act which legalises same sex marriage may give our Parliament and our Prime Minister some food for thought.
The effect of Britain’s legislation, openly championed by Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron, takes the issue of same sex marriage out of the domain of some sinister left-wing plot to undermine “traditional values” and into the realm of an underpinning of conservative (small c) values. It places same sex couples on the same social and cultural level as heterosexual married couples – something which legal safeguards alone such as complete equality in superannuation for same sex couples does not do.
In the UK legislation religious organisations are allowed to choose whether or not they will perform same sex marriage ceremonies. Since according to the last UK census in 2010 68% of marriages in England and Wales were civil ceremonies (a similar percentage to Australia’s), it is likely that religious bodies are not going to be inundated with pressure to perform same sex ceremonies.
ABS statistics do not tell the full story but could be regarded as our most accurate measure of possible demand for same sex marriage. ABS says
The total of 33,714 same-sex couples in 2011 was 32% higher than the number in 2006. Same-sex couples increased both in number and as a proportion of all couples in every Census after 1996, when this information was first compiled. The increases may in part reflect greater willingness by people to identify themselves as same-sex couples in the Census. It could also to some extent reflect an increased awareness that counts of same-sex couples are compiled from the Census – giving more reason to supply this information.
If we extrapolate a figure of 60% or thereabouts for same sex couples who wish to marry in Australia out of an estimated 33 714 couples then we are looking at around 20 000 couples who may wish to marry. Or who may wish to have the choice, as all de-facto heterosexual couples potentially do.
Hardly a tsunami of social change and revolution.
The beauty of such a humane measure will be it is virtually cost free. The folk at Canprint the Government printer might have to change their marriage stationery templates. There might be some pencil chewing at the various state registries of BDMs.
But legislating for same sex marriage is virtually a cost-free legislative reform which will probably make at least 20 000 couples, their families, friends and their kids and potential kids happy with no repercussions for the rest of us.
For Prime Minister Julia Gillard, under pressure as she is from trogdolytes like Joe de Bruyn the solution is simple. We are even happy to draft some legislation for her for free. No scary stuff. No polygamy, polyandry or bestiality. The curtains won’t fade, the horses won’t be spooked.
All that is required is the following:
A Bill for an Act to amend Section 5(1) of the Marriage Act 1961.
that all words after the word “marriage” be replaced by other words.
The other words being
“…means the union of two adult persons to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life.“